Chinatown businesses report problems with new feature meant to safeguard pedestrians


The city wants to make Chinatown a more walkable neighborhood, but its new project is causing some unexpected problems.

As part of the Chinatown action plan, officials spend five years collaborating with local businesses and residents, who said their top priority was pedestrian safety.

Last year, the city says there were eight pedestrian crashes in the community.

The city recently put up sidewalk extensions in the form of barriers that extend into the street. The goal was to make it quicker and safer for pedestrians to cross.

“The idea is to make it a more pedestrian-focused area. It’s the largest area with walkability. We looked at that and the elderly population who need more time to cross the street,” said Michael Packard, the city’s Complete Streets program coordinator.

But businesses say the new safety feature is causing problems for delivery and pickup trucks.

“A lot of people are complaining, especially delivery trucks like FedEx, UPS, they cannot deliver to people around here. They have to park far away (with) very heavy packages,” said Sam Say, who owns MP Lei Shop.

He says trash pickup is also affected. “I heard they said they couldn’t turn. Big trucks cannot park in the area, and the trash is heavy, so they leave it,” Say said.

“There is a lack of loading zones, a lack of where delivery trucks park,” said Chu Lan Shubert-Kwock, a member of the Downtown-Chinatown Neighborhood Board. “A lot of illegal activity goes on in the shoulders. The city never planned properly to provide for sufficient loading.”

The city says it’s aware of the issues.

“New things cause new problems and things of concern,” Packard said. “One of the things we heard about were deliveries. These spots were not legal spots for parking, because it blocked the line of sight for pedestrians.”

For now, the city says trash pickup will change. In a statement, the city is “asking customers in Chinatown to place their trash at the new curbside, just inside the roadway edge of the bulb-outs, to allow for quick pickup by city crews.”

The city also says the sidewalk extensions aren’t set in stone.

“We think we’re going to be able to get through this and learn from the merchants and users to see what potentially needs to change,” Packard said.

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